03/09/2016 12:57PM

New OTBs being developed in Maryland


The Maryland Jockey Club offtrack betting parlor at the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Baltimore, which opened in 2015, was estimated to handle $10 million a year. It has exceeded expectations, and Sal Sinatra, general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club, now expects it to handle $12 million to $13 million a year.

During Laurel Park’s winter break, Sinatra has focused on two OTBs under development, one on the fairgrounds of the Maryland State Fair in Timonium and the other in Boonsboro, approximately 65 miles northwest of Baltimore.

The Timonium OTB is now being beta-tested and accepting wagers, according to Sinatra. Its opening has not been announced because residents in the local area have objected to the OTB and are engaged in tense negotiations with fairgrounds officials.

Residents are upset that they were not informed about the OTB until it was well under construction, and they are concerned that the OTB could lead to other forms of gambling at the site.

“I understand where the townspeople are coming from,” Sinatra said. “They really don’t have any problems with us and the OTB, they just want assurances from the fairgrounds that the OTB won’t lead to a casino being put in there.”

Local politicians have indicated they will give the OTB their blessing if fairgrounds officials sign an agreement that no other forms of gambling will be allowed on the premises. Fairgrounds directors are hesitant to do so, however, fearing the agreement could lower the value of their 90-acre property.

“Really, I’m just trying to help make peace there,” Sinatra said.

The Boonsboro OTB, which is scheduled to open in April, will be located in a strip mall on the second floor of a restaurant. Sinatra said the Timonium site could eventually “do a little better” than the Horseshoe Casino OTB and that, “Boonsboro might do half what the casino does, but we might be pleasantly surprised there, too.”

The Horseshoe Casino OTB was a contributing factor in the Maryland Jockey Club handling $404 million in 2015, a 20 percent increase over the prior year.

“Obviously, getting on the beltway is brutal,” Sinatra said. “With these regional OTBs, I’m trying to bring the races to the people without hurting live attendance.”